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Six Vermont Inmates Return From Mississippi Prison With COVID-19

Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility
Rogelio V. Solis
Associated Press File
Vermont incarcerates over 200 people at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Mississippi.

Six inmates tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Vermont from Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, the private for-profit prison Vermont contracts in Mississippi.

The inmates have been in medical isolation at the Marble Valley Correctional Facility in Rutland since they arrived in Vermont on Tuesday. They had returned to finish programming and prepare for their reentry to the community.

According to CoreCivic, the Mississippi prison contractor, the six inmates were screened for symptoms and given temperature checks before leaving the facility.

"None of the inmates showed any symptoms consistent with COVID-19," CoreCivic public affairs manager Ryan Gustin said in an email.

More from VPR: Mississippi Inmate Settles With State Over COVID-19 Protections

According to a statement from the Vermont Department of Corrections, another inmate incarcerated in Mississippi tested positive for the virus earlier this week. That inmate lived in the same unit as the six who arrived in Vermont Tuesday, suggesting the virus may have spread throughout the unit. Vermont currently incarcerates more than 200 inmates at the Mississippi facility. Most reside in two adjacent units.

Vermont's in-state prisons, which suffered a significant outbreak of COVID-19 in April, have largely kept the virus under control after instituting routine testing of all staff and inmates. Vermont's inmates in Mississippi, however, are only tested after they display symptoms.

Now, Vermont DOC is making efforts to test all of the inmates it incarcerates there.

More from Brave Little State: How Are Vermont Prisons Handling COVID-19?

"This was all too predictable," said James Lyall, Executive Director of the Vermont ACLU. "We have been calling on DOC and the Scott administration to test all incarcerated Vermonters, including those incarcerated out of state, for months."

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tallahatchie County has over six times the rate of COVID-19 as Chittenden County, Vermont's most infected county.

Gustin, with CoreCivic, noted the facility has had 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among employees. He did not say how many inmates have tested positive.

Emily Corwin reported investigative stories for VPR until August 2020. In 2019, Emily was part of a two-newsroom team which revealed that patterns of inadequate care at Vermont's eldercare facilities had led to indignities, injuries, and deaths. The consequent series, "Worse for Care," won a national Edward R. Murrow award for investigative reporting, and placed second for a 2019 IRE Award. Her work editing VPR's podcast JOLTED, about an averted school shooting, and reporting NHPR's podcast Supervision, about one man's transition home from prison, made her a finalist for a Livingston Award in 2019 and 2020. Emily also reports and produces every other episode of Brave Little State. When she's not working, she enjoys cross country skiing and biking.
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